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A moral issue is an issue involving inherent or acquired human values. For Christians, moral issues are usually based off of biblical principles and they tend to be issues that people debate over as to whether they are wrong or not. In the Bible, these wrong things are defined as sins. There are three big moral issues in today’s society, namely, abortions, the legalization of marijuana, and gay marriage. These three issues have caused much controversy over the past few years. However, moral issues are not limited to those three matters. Significant moral issues also include cheating, stealing, adultery, envy, covetousness, slander, murder, idolatry, gluttony, fornic ation, violence, gambling, and lying. This is because these actions may be clear cut sins for some readers of the Bible, but other individuals may feel such actions are justifiable, even acceptable. I, however, believe that lying is never acceptable, especially the lying that takes place in The Count of Monte Cristo. The consequences can ruin lives, which brings me to the focus of this paper. In this paper, I will focus on how the moral issue of lying has appeared in the novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, and how it affects the lives of the characters. A lie can be simply defined as an untruth. It can also be defined as a misleading or deceitful statement. George Bancroft once said, “Dishonesty is so grasping it would deceive God himself, were it possible.” Lying has been around for a very long time. Amazingly, the first lie ever told was actually recorded in the Bible at Genesis 3:4: “And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die.” This was a lie told nearly at the beginning of time, from Satan the Devil to the first woman Eve in regards to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve chose to sin against God, making God’s once perfect creations anything but. As descendants of Adam and Eve, we have inherited their imperfection. It is in our nature to sin, and the most common sin of all is lying. We all lie, some of us more than others. However, just because it is in our nature doesn’t make it right. Lying is a prevalent moral issue in The Count of Monte Cristo, a novel authored by Alexander Dumas. It is at the root of their problems. Lying is morally wrong and has chaotic consequences. This is exemplified when one slanderous lie offsets a tumultuous turn of events. Lives are turned upside down, and some are even lost. The entire plot is centered on lies and deceit. A somewhat controversial issue dealing with lying is the withholding of information. Is the withholding of information “lying”? Yes, because by withholding information, one consciously causes a person to believe something that is not the truth, thus making the withholder a liar. Edmond Dantes, the novel’s protagonist, is guilty of withholding information. When he is asked to deliver a letter as his deceased captain’s dying wish, he withholds the details as to who the letter is from and who it is addressed to. As an indirect result of that lie, Dantes eventually lost everything. The three antagonists of the book harbor a strong dislike for Dantes, each for a different reason. Danglars, the main antagonist, envies the way Dantes is loved by the crew members and Monsieur Morrel, and also of Dantes’s new position as captain of the ship. Caderousse thinks him to be too arrogant, while Fernand is coveting Dantes’s girlfriend. Not surprisingly, they all band together to make Dantes fall. Danglars writes a letter to the authorities, claiming that Dantes is in possession of a letter from Napoleon Bonaparte with intentions to overthrow the king. However, this is only the beginning of the drama. The letter in itself is a lie. But then, Danglars pretends to throw the letter away when Caderousse objects. Fernand goes back to retrieve it, and they mail it off. Although Caderousse had no part in the letter being mailed off, he still took part in pumping them up with evil thoughts about Dantes. Because of the lies contained in the slanderous letter, the public prosecutor is forced to pay Dantes a visit. Villefort was one of the biggest liars in this story. Villefort, the public prosecutor of Versailles, is from a treasonous heritage, with his father being a secret supporter of Napoleon. It was his duty to arrest anyone thought to be plotting against the king, but he let his father run free, so as not to bring shame upon his family. By letting his father roam free, he violated his code of ethics, which could be considered, in a sense, lying. Then, he arrested a man he believed to be innocent—Dantes—so that his secret would be kept safe. After Napoleon regained his power and Bonapartism became legal, Villefort still did not release Dantes from prison. He then proceeded to lie to Monsieur Morrel when he inquired about Dantes’s release. Villefort’s lies he recorded on Dantes files also caused Dantes to not get a fair trial. Of course, we must not forget about Villefort’s father, Noirtier. He is not merely a Bonapartist sympathizer, but an activist in the battle. Because of this, he is forced to live life on the run. Noirtier’s decision to live a life of deceit put his family name at risk. It’s also the reason Villefort puts an innocent man in prison. Earlier on in the book, we learned that Dantes’s fiancé, Mercedes, threatened to commit suicide if Dantes died. So far in the story, Dantes was called away from his engagement dinner to be thrown into prison. He has lost six years of his life. Dantes’ father has died of distress from his son’s imprisonment. Danglars moved to Madrid, for fear that his lies would catch up with him. Dantes attempts suicide by starvation, and almost succeeds. By the mercy of God, he was interrupted. But imagine, if he had succeeded in killing himself, then Mercedes would have surely killed herself, too. These are only a few of the chaotic consequences that came about from their lies. All lies have consequences, some more severe than others. People find many reasons to lie, some of them good, some of them bad. But, does the reason behind a lie really matter? Is a lie ever justifiable? Well. I believe that if one lies for one’s own selfish gain, then it is not justifiable. However, if one lies for a good cause, as in to save a life or even just to spare someone’s feelings, it is justified, still while being morally unacceptable. If a child is pushed by another child, they are justified in pushing that child back. However, the adult in charge will most likely punish both of the children. This is because justification of a wrongdoing does not make that wrongdoing any less wrong. Thus, if a lie is justified, that doesn’t make it any less wrong. Danglars’s and Fernand’s lies were nowhere near justified. They only had themselves in mind when they devised that letter. They were willing to hurt Dantes—an innocent man—just so they could get what they wanted. Fernand was also willing to hurt Mercedes, the woman he claimed to love so dearly. He knew Dantes going to prison would hurt her, yet he went through with it anyway. Villefort’s lies could be considered somewhat justified. He was simply trying to protect his family’s name. He did not want shame brought upon his family. However, his pride blinded him from seeing just how far he had gone. Edmond Dantes’ lie at the beginning of the story could be considered justified, as it was probably done to protect the good name of his dead captain and, possibly, his own. But, lying was still the wrong thing to do. Although he was only trying to do the right thing by his captain, he could have endangered many people by doing so. What if Napoleon had been planning a violent attack on France and the letter being delivered had been equivalent to the pulling of the trigger? Dantes did not know what was in that letter. However, he did know that it contained treasonous information. Lying is a moral issue because some people feel that a lie is a lie, justified or not, while others may feel that lying is okay in certain situations. The Count of Monte Cristo is filled to the brim with lies and deceit. The conflict is centered on the acidic lies of several people. The lying brings on the chaotic events of the story, just as sin brings on the chaotic events of the world that we live in. Lying is morally wrong and never acceptable, but is justifiable on rare occasions. Why? Not only does it bring chaotic consequences, but God Himself said so: “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”(Proverbs 6:16-19)
Contributed by Vontavia Heard